What Is Love? Developing A Definition
Coming up with a cohesive definition of love is a task that people have labored over for centuries. Because the love we feel for various people in our lives depends on context—how long we’ve known them, our specific relationship with them, etc.—it can be hard to conceptualize what love is exactly. Love can involve a mix of emotions, behaviors, and beliefs; and it is often associated with strong feelings of affection and respect. Some say that love is something that you only fully understand when you experience it yourself. While it is a hard concept to define, many have come up with different descriptions that help us better understand its different expressions. Below, we’re going to outline several different definitions of love and how they may apply to the relationships in your life.
Love According To The Dictionary
The difficulty in creating an all-encompassing characterization of love is illustrated by the several different definitions that you come across in a dictionary. For example, the of love according to Merriam-Webster range from “a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties” to “an assurance of affection”.
The dictionary definitions will also change depending on the specific source you’re referencing. The Cambridge Dictionary, for instance, includes a definition that is romantic, platonic, and familial : “to like another adult very much and be romantically and sexually attracted to them, or to have strong feelings of liking a friend or person in your family”.
Love According To The Triangular Theory
Robert Sternberg’s is a simple way of conceptualizing romantic love. According to this theory, true love is a combination of three components: intimacy, passion, and commitment.
Intimacy can be described as the comforting connection you feel with someone. Intimacy often exists when we bond with someone on a deep level. It can happen when you and your partner spend meaningful time together, empathize with one another, and share your lives.
Passion is characterized by a sexual attraction to someone. Passion may fluctuate over time, but it can still be an important aspect of a relationship. You may feel passion when you and your partner become physical, kiss, or even just look at each other.
Commitment indicates that one’s feelings have advanced to the point that they can see a future with their romantic interest. This aspect of love may develop when, for example, you ask your partner to move in with you.
The three components of the triangular theory of love are interrelated; so, strengthening one area can help improve another. For example, you might notice how closely connected intimacy and commitment are when spending time alone with your partner makes you want to move in with them.
Within this theory, there are eight different relationship types that may develop, based on which components exist in a partnership. For instance, you may experience romantic love—a love in which passion and intimacy are present, but commitment is not. Or you and your partner could feel companionate love—a love in which commitment and intimacy are present, but passion is not.
If a relationship covers all three points of the triangle, according to Sternberg’s theory, true love is present. Often, to develop these three components of love, you need to work past old habits, be vulnerable, and let someone see all of the different aspects of your personality and life.
Love According To The Ancient Greeks
In ancient Greece, philosophers and other thinkers developed several different words for love, covering a range of relationships and situations. These forms of love help us understand how we express love for the people in our lives differently.
Eros is a physical, sexual form of love. In Greece, Eros was the god of sexual desire. The Greeks believed this love could be dangerous, as it could cause people to behave in risky ways. Eros often happens during the beginning of a relationship, before deeper feelings take over. Eros doesn’t always indicate the presence of a partnership, though, and it doesn’t always lead to a more serious kind of love.
Philia is a platonic love—a love that you often see between friends. Philia was cherished in the world of ancient Greece as it was considered a pure form of love. Philia allows you to form a strong bond with friends, in which mutual affection and support are present.
Ludus is a light and flirtatious expression of love. It often happens early in a relationship, but it does not necessarily have to occur between partners. Often characteristic of the feelings between young people, ludus is often referred to as playful love.
Pragma is a committed love that typically develops over a long period of time. Couples who experience pragma, which means practical, have formed a mutually beneficial relationship. This love embodies commitment, structure, and a common vision for the future.
Agape love is characterized by selflessness and giving. It is often referred to as unconditional love, where you give without expecting to receive. It is also frequently attributed to people who are religious—the Greeks considered this type of love to be the love of the gods.
This is the love of yourself. However, there are two kinds of love that philautia can indicate. First, there's a narcissistic form of self-love. Then, there’s the type of self-love marked by confidence, self-acceptance, and knowledge of your worth. With the latter type of love, you make efforts to practice self-compassion and care for yourself. Self-love can be an important part of being in a romantic relationship.
This is familial love. Storge can describe the love between a parent and child, siblings, or other family members.
Storge can also apply to a close friend, particularly if they’re someone who you’ve grown up with.
How Do I Know If It’s Love?
When it comes to romantic relationships specifically, falling in love is an experience many people seek out. With all of the different definitions of love, though, it can be hard to know whether you indeed love someone. Although the presence of love in your life will depend on your exact situation and feelings, there are several signs that indicate you’re in love.
One common indicator of love is empathy. When your partner feels discomfort, anger, or sadness, do you feel those emotions, too? Being able to understand and even experience your partner’s emotions is a sign that you have a loving relationship.
You can also ask yourself whether you feel safe with your partner. While this can refer to physical safety, it may also describe a comfort and lack of distress when you’re around them. In some relationships, one partner feels as though they’re not able to say or do certain things, which can make it hard for a healthy partnership to form.
If your partner prioritizes you in their life, commits to you, and works with you, that can signal the existence of love. This type of love is indicated in Sternberg’s triangular theory and the ancient Greeks’ pragma. Does your partner frequently talk about the future or want to share their life with you? This is a strong sign of love.
In many cases, though, you’ll simply know that you’re in love. You may have an intuitive feeling that you’re with the right person or experience strong but ineffable emotions around them. In fact, the love you feel for your partner may be so unique that it doesn’t fit within someone else’s definition.
If you’d like help parsing your feelings for your partner, talking to a therapist can help. A therapist can help you learn more about how you each prefer to express love while also giving you the tools to develop a strong, healthy relationship.
Fostering Love With Online Therapy
Research shows that online therapy can help couples develop and nurture a loving relationship. In a study titled “More Than One Way to Say ‘I Love You’”, researchers found that online therapy improved participants’ ability to better understand one another and adopt more flexible points of view. Participants in the study reported experiencing enhanced relationship satisfaction and individual psychological improvement at a one-month follow-up.
Online therapy can give you and your partner the tools and support to foster love in your relationship, regardless of how you define it. Utilizing an online therapy platform like Regain, you and your partner can meet with a therapist remotely—through video call, voice call, or in-app messaging—which can be helpful if you’re not comfortable discussing topics like love in person. Your therapist can also connect you with useful resources, such as at-home exercises that can help you continue to develop a loving bond on your own time. Online therapy can help you and your partner address challenges in your relationship and develop a strong foundation of love. Continue reading for reviews of Regain therapists from those who have sought help in the past.
“Sarah has been comforting to me through a very difficult transition. She has helped me to regain confidence and listen to my intuition. She is a great listener and has encouraged me to rediscover and use my voice.”
“With Cassandra’s help, we’ve been able to bring our relationship to a new, healthier, and much happier level, working through painful situations, growing as individuals and as a couple, and with tools to stay on this path. She’s very responsive, and it has been great to have her facilitate our messaging through the app all week. I highly recommend Cassandra. She’s skilled, supportive, and down-to-earth. We feel totally comfortable with her.”
Love can come in many forms and mean different things to different people. In relationships, love can be a binding phenomenon, helping partners deepen their connection and grow together. If you’d like help fostering love in your relationship, consider reaching out to a licensed therapist online. You and your partner deserve the strong bond that can come from a loving relationship.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you define love?
Love is one of the strongest human emotions in existence. Love is defined as an intense feeling of deep affection. The three components of love according to Robert Sternberg's triangular theory of love are intimacy, passion, and commitment. Intimacy encompasses feelings of attachment, closeness, bondedness, and connectedness. Passion is tied to sexual attraction, and commitment encompasses the decision to remain with another. What’s happening when you first fall in love is your cheeks flush, your heart races, your palms are sweaty, and your head starts spinning due to the rush of chemicals and hormones, similar to that of a runner’s high. Psychology Today also considers modern love to be the equivalent of “psychiatric transparency.” This is due to the stress psychiatric disorders, such as bipolar disorder, can affect a relationship. While disorders such as bipolar disorder can put a strain on relationships, true love exists beyond them. When someone falls in love with someone with a mental health condition or any health condition, their love extends beyond the condition.
What is the true meaning of true love?
True love is an act of will and judgment, intention, and promise carried out regularly. In many cases, love is blind. All you see is love, even if the person may be bad for you. This is especially common in the early stages of love when someone first falls in love with another person.
What is the best definition of love?
Love is defined differently from person to person. But to explain love, it is a mix of emotions, behaviors, and beliefs associated with strong feelings of affection and respect. The feeling of love exists toward animals, principles, and religious beliefs, as well. In the early stages of love, a person falls in love with another human being. At first, when you’re in love, the relationship is perfect or feels perfect, and all seems right in the world.
What is love's full meaning?
To experience love is to feel one of the most intense emotions as human beings. Experiencing love comes in different feelings, states, and attitudes that range from affection to pleasure. In life, love in the various forms of love are passionate love, affectionate love, and unconditional love, but other forms of love exist.
What is love? Explain in one word.
What love means to a man?
To a man, real love is about giving and contributing to his partner regularly. A man experiencing love will respect, listen, and adore his partner. He won’t drain their energy or only give on a conditional basis. What’s happening when a man first falls in love is the rush of chemicals and hormones that make his heart race, palms sweat, and his head spin-all the attributes we go through when first falling in love with someone.
What are the 4 types of love?
Why is love so important?
How do I know I'm in love?
Is love a feeling or a choice?
What is the psychological interpretation of love?
What emotions are involved in love?
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